Stage 43: Mirto Crosia to Cirò Marina

Distance: 44.66 km

Time: 2 hours 2 minutes

Speed: 22 km/h

Ascent: 187 metres

Total distance: 2191 km

Total time: 116 hours 45 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 3 Stoker 2

Word of the day: “gentilezza” (gen-ti-letz-ah) – kindness

The Captain writes:

We couldn’t have been made more welcome than by Alfonso and his family. Their kindness and their determination to make sure we enjoyed every moment of our time in Mirto shone through. After we’d had our well-deserved lie-in we woke feeling the heaviness of our leg muscles, the product of a lengthy run of cycling days.

After we enjoyed yoghurt and delicious fresh figs for breakfast Alfonso arrived, with his wife Daniela and son Francesco. They drove us to the beach, where they had organised sun beds and an umbrella for us, very close to the sea. As they departed Alfonso asked if we would like him to show us around the area in the afternoon – an offer we we were very happy to accept.

We spent a very relaxing few hours at the beach, swam with tiny sea bream in the flat calm waters, feeling the muscles relax even as we did so. Lunch at the Lido was very good, then after a second swim we walked back into town.

Alfonso turned up an hour later. His Italian was very clear, a huge bonus to us when we were listening for familiar words and phrases – once again our Italian has improved on this long trip but we can still occasionally use some help! He drove us to the village of Calopezzati, past the “beach” section of the village and towards the hilltop town we could see ahead of us.

In between these two was a property owned by his family, which sat on top of a hill, with views in all directions, surrounded by olive, almond and fig trees. He introduced us to his father and brother, and explained that this was where family celebrations and parties were held. Much of the land surrounding the area belonged to the family, and work was in progress nearby to build some apartments for rental and a swimming pool.

He picked some figs for us, and a few almonds, and explained that the olive trees we could see were picked by hand and produced about 5,000 litres of olive oil for use by the extended family, although this year’s harvest was likely to be a poor one.

After saying farewell to his family he drove us up into the hilltop part of Calopezzati, which dominated the surrounding area. Locals waved to him as he drove through, and we stopped to admire the twisty narrow streets, the castle and convent and an amazing belvedere with superb views back towards Mirto and the sea.

On the way back to the apartment he said he’d tried to arrange a visit to a frantoio (olive mill), but that it was closed. On the spur of the moment though he decided we should visit it anyway, and he drove back into the hills and down a narrow lane to the frantoio. After he sounded his horn a couple of times the proprietor emerged – they were clearly good friends and he agreed to show us around.

When they spoke to each other Alfonso’s Italian morphed into the local Calabrian dialect. We both noticed that when they were talking to each other they “chopped off” the ends of words – formaggio became formagg’, for example. We could still follow much of what they were discussing, fortunately.

We were shown around the frantoio – it was modern and well-equipped, both for the production of oil and of wine.

As if olive oil and wine weren’t enough we were also introduced to a herd of cattle, roaming freely around the land. He explained that these produced milk which he turned into Caciocavallo cheese. We tasted it and it was superb – he had been awarded the DOP mark (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) which signifies that the cheese he produces is of the highest quality.

Alfonso insisted on buying us some Caciocavallo and also the Gaglioppo wine produced at the Frantoio, and later we enjoyed them, along with the figs, as part of our evening meal.

Occasionally on these trips we strike lucky, and yesterday was that day. It helps, I think, that we speak (enough!) Italian, but the warmth, kindness and generosity with which Alfonso and his family welcomed us turned our rest day into something special, one we will always remember.

We weren’t really expecting much from today’s stage, as it was mainly taking us along the SS106, which is still fairly busy despite having slimmed down to one lane in each direction. Actually, though, it was fine, with some enjoyable diversions.

Mirto itself was jammed with vehicles, and we eased ourself onto the road behind a large bus and coped with all the stop-start traffic for the first kilometre or so. Once out of town the volume of vehicles dropped significantly and we settled into a good rhythm, aided I think by the faintest of tailwinds. We passed through Calopezzati, spotting one of Alfonso’s premises on the way, then past the turn off for the frantoio. The rest day seemed to have done wonders for our leg muscles, and for the first three-quarters of an hour we were speeding along at nearly 27 kilometres per hour.

A diversion on a rough surface through the town of Cariati soon slowed us down, but it did give us a few kilometres away from the main road, some beach views, and a chance to stop in the shade and gulp some water. It almost goes without saying that today was another hot day, but we do seem to have acclimatised to the temperatures.

We returned to the main road for another few kilometres of fast riding, before turning right to scale the first of two hills which separated us from our destination. The first was only difficult because they had recently “scalped” the road prior to resurfacing, which made for an uncomfortable ride.

The second, which followed soon after, was slightly longer but perfectly enjoyable, in green surroundings.

Finally we turned towards the sea, with Cirò town high up to our right and Cirò Marina, our destination ahead of us, at the end of a fairly long and thoroughly enjoyable descent.

We arrived at the beachfront and found a restaurant, ordered an insalata Caprese each (delicious!) and relaxed while we waited for our B&B to become available.

Tomorrow we continue down the coast to Capo Rizzuto where, after some time off, we will begin our westward journey to Catanzaro and the Tyrrhenian coast.

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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